Court decision complicates prosecutions of elected leaders

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legal experts say a Supreme Court opinion setting aside the bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will make it harder for Justice Department prosecutors to bring similar cases in the future and brings welcome news to other elected officials investigated for or charged with corruption.

The court unanimously held Monday that the actions McDonnell took to benefit a businessman who gave him luxury gifts may have been distasteful but did not cross the line into illegal conduct.

The decision clarifying the boundaries between illegal conduct and what’s merely unseemly could be used by elected officials to argue that they have broader leeway in what’s permissible. And it means that prosecutors will have to think twice before charging elected officials simply for arranging access for a friendly benefactor.

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